Not The Train We’re Looking For

7:00-9:00 AM and 4:30-7:00 PM (approximately) are the busiest times on the Chicago-area Metra commuter trains; in most cases, there will be a train about every 10 minutes or less. My older son and I were in time for the morning rush after I was done photographing some morning road traffic, which made for a very happy young man.



This Isn't The Train We're Looking For

The Chicago & North Western built a three-track mainline out of Chicago, and they ran left-hand main, which is unusual for a North American railroad. The arrangement of signals and stations is so costly to change that Union Pacific still runs left-hand main on the former C&NW tracks. Thus it is that the people in this picture are waiting for an inbound train on the center track and ignoring the outbound train passing behind. 🙂



I grew up in Arlington Heights, IL, which lies along the old Chicago & North Western mainline. The C&NW is no more, having been bought by Union Pacific in 1995, but the tracks are still very much in use, and I had long promised my older son that I would take him to watch the trains go by. When visiting my parents at the beginning of June, I made good on that promise during the morning rush.

I had just parked and was waiting to cross the road when this cyclist came by. The first train hadn’t arrived yet, but I couldn’t resist getting a little motion blur.

Philo Gloaming

Philo Gloaming

When we were first married, my wife was the organist at St. Thomas Catholic Church, Philo, IL, and in the course of her job we did much driving around southeastern Champaign County. Because of the Embarras River, which rises on the south side of Champaign and then flows southeast, this part of the county has gently rolling land, very gentle but enough to make it noticeably prettier (to my eye) than the rest.

We paid a visit recently to St. Thomas for Mass and were rewarded with this scene on the way home. I had forgotten how much I liked the area, and I’m inspired to go back for some less spur-of-the-moment pictures later this year.

Bailey Yard

Big Yellow

Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, NE, is the world’s largest freight classification yard. Since my boys like trains, it seemed a logical place to stop and take in the view on our way through Nebraska. This is only the eastbound segment; out of frame right is the westbound “bowl” into which cars are sorted, and the receiving/departure tracks stretch for miles out of sight in either direction.

Railroad Days


I am privileged to live a mere half-hour’s drive from a very well-supported railway museum. The Monticello Railway Museum has an enthusiastic and devoted crew of volunteers, an excellent machine shop (so excellent that other railway museums have paid them for their work), and legions of fans, young and old, who come out on the weekends for a ride. In the middle of September every year they have one weekend with all-day passes, extra trains running, and extra amusements for the kids, and our young railfans have made it for the past two years.

Continue reading “Railroad Days”


Goin' Home

My wife is a railfan, like her father, and she has taken great care to pass the disease passion on to our sons. As a friend joked, we take quite a literal interpretation of the Biblical injunction to “train up a child in the way he should go.” I reserve my machine-fandom for airplanes, but I enjoy trains, and with two children bitten by the rail bug I try to do my duty to encourage their interest. Thus, when a friend advised us that Nickel Plate 765 would be transiting Champaign County on its way to St. Louis, it seemed the perfect chance to get some pictures that would both test my patience and reward my boys.

Continue reading “Trainspotting”